Downtown building projects pushed back to 2018

Slow going for Shipyard's Building 6 and Washington Street redevelopment
By Ethan Andrews | Aug 11, 2017
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Construction of a four-story retail and residential building on a vacant Washington Street lot, right, have been pushed back to 2018 after an environmental cleanup of the site took longer than projected.

Belfast — Two major downtown developments are still in the works, but neither is likely to break ground this year.

Front Street Shipyard continues to pursue financing for a new 21,700-square-foot workshop proposed in 2013, while trustees of a Washington Street property are waiting on documents from an environmental cleanup before moving ahead with a planned commercial and residential development.

Shipyard President JB Turner said the fate of Building 6, as it is known, depends on the outcome of negotiations with banks and other lending institutions — recently there were five involved, he said, including Finance Authority of Maine.

The 65-foot-tall building would stand 11 feet taller than the largest building on the site today and allow the shipyard's 485-ton travel lift to transport vessels from the water directly into the building.

Previously Turner spoke of a Catch-22 wherein financing hinged on a contract to build ferryboats, while the contract to build the ferryboats hinged on having a large-enough workshop in which to build them, namely Building 6.

Since then, he said, some other projects have taken the pressure off the ferry contract. On Aug. 7, Turner said the shipyard could break ground on Building 6 this year, "if things come together quickly."

Diane Bergey, trustee of the 1.3-acre Dale C. Palmer Living Trust on Washington Street, said she's hoping to break ground on a new four-story residential and commercial building in the spring.

The building was announced in 2015. Bergey and her mother and fellow trustee Eunice Palmer had a complex of warehouses behind Home Supply hardware demolished later that year. Central Maine Power Co. subsequently removed a defunct coal gasification plant on the property, along with tons of contaminated soil from the Palmer property and under Washington Street.

To get financing, she said, she needs CMP to file a final report certifying that the cleanup is complete. "There was a delay, due to who knows what," she said. "We're expecting that in September sometime."

The 7,500-square-foot building planned for the site would have retail at street level and condos for rent or sale on the upper floors. There would be a parking lot and a landscaped walking path that Bergey envisions looping back to High Street along a discontinued stretch of Market Street next to MacLeod Furniture.

She ruled out starting this year. Even if financing comes together, her builder advised it would be hard to get the basic site work done before snow flies.

"It's better not to rush these things," she said.

She noted that it was late 2013 when CMP first notified her that the utility was responsible for the former coal plant. "That's how long it's been," she said. "So another few months is fine."

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